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SoundCard/DAC/Amp for the Swans M10?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by happy hacking, Aug 17, 2013.
  1. Happy Hacking
    I'm new to this 'mid-high' end audio stuff so kinda confused as to what I should be getting and what I should not, for my moneys worth.
    Planning to get a pair of Hivi Swans M10 at $100, but I have a total budget of about $150-200.
    What should I do with the remaining <$100? 
    Get a better pair of speakers instead? Or get a Sound card/DAC/Amp?
    I have NO IDEA of the differences between a soundcard/dac/amp. Which would I need for my setup and what would improve my audio experience best with the money I have to spend? Or maybe change the cables?
    Currently on a Z87-GD65 MSI Gaming Motherboard which has Realtek  ALC1150 Codec.
    Any advise would be greatly appreciated.
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    If you only need the sound card (DAC) for speakers.
    Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card, used $50-$60.
  3. SEALBoy
    I have the Swans M10, so I can speak a little from experience.
    There is already an amp built into the speakers, so you don't need one. Generally you only need a separate amp if you are driving large headphones, or if you are buying standalone speakers. The Swans M10 is a complete 2.1 speaker package with the amp built into the subwoofer.
    Since you are hooking up to a PC, I would recommend getting a surround-sound capable sound card. An external DAC will generally only do stereo audio. Now, strictly speaking, because your speakers are only 2.1, you won't be able to use the surround-sound capabilities of your sound card, but a good sound card can last through several generations before you really need to change it. Look at a Xonar DX or a Creative Sound Blaster Z, both are excellent cards. I have the Sound Blaster Z myself and I love it. It also has a separate headphone output with an amp so you can quickly switch between headsets or speakers if you want.
    If you really want the BEST stereo sound quality, an external DAC might be better, but I don't have much experience with those so someone else can chime and recommend one that's $50-$100 and better than an internal sound card.
  4. Happy Hacking
    How are the M10's? I can up my budget and get the M50w, but I'd prefer having a woofer on the desk and the 'midwoofer' on the M10's kinda appeal to me, along with it's low price. I still cannot find a comparison online on the realtek 1150 versus THD/SBZ/Xonar DX sound cards.
    Does the Soundblaster Z make a lot of difference to your Swans M10 versus your onboard audio? And what is your onboard audio, if you would please tell me.
    Thank you for your detailed response! 
  5. SEALBoy
    I love my M10's. I don't actually have them hooked up to my PC, they are being used with my TV. I've always had a sound card with my current PC (an X-Fi XtremeGamer before my Z), so I can't speak to how it compares with my onboard audio.
    However, a Xonar DX or Sound Blaster Z is pretty much guaranteed to me a step up from onboard audio, particularly with a good speaker system.
  6. Happy Hacking
    Once again, thank you for your input.
    I guess I'll try my onboard audio first when I get my speakers, then decide if I need an external DAC or sound card.
    Just a question to you, if you were in my position, would you spend $300 on Swans m50w, or $100 on the M10, <$100 on a soundcard/DAC and save the rest up?
    I am no audiophile and cannot really distinguish better audio unless there is significant difference. 
    Also, would you recommend I get a sound card or an external DAC? If I get an external DAC with amps, will I be able to hook it up to both my speakers and headphones at the same time, or do I need to unplug one If I use the other?
  7. cel4145
    If you get an external DAC for speakers and headphones, you also want one with a headphone amp and preamp built in. A DAC alone cannot power headphones, although it can be use to send signal to powered speakers. Look into the Audioengine D1.

    I would think that the Swans M50W will be a much better speaker set than the M10. I would go with that, and then later on when you afford it, worry about upgrading to a sound card or external DAC.
  8. Happy Hacking
    Point taken. I have decided not to go with the M10 or M50W, but the D1080-IV instead, I can live without a sub I guess.
    Would a Xonar U7 do the job good? I have people telling me that soundcards are a better option than DACs.
  9. cel4145
    An external sound card like the Xonary U7 has a DAC in it. It also has a headphone amp and Dolby DSP surround processing, and it is capable of multichannel output. Something like the FiiO E17, which is an external 2 channel DAC with headphone amp, may have better sound fidelity (you'd have to compare them), but of course no Dolby sound features. Just depends on what you want.
  10. Xovoeto
    You won't be able to use the surround-sound capabilities of your sound card, but a good sound card can last through several generations before you really need to change it.
  11. Happy Hacking
    Since the FiiO E17 only has 1 output which is the headphone jack output I just plug my speakers into that and it will work? No compatibility issues, not hurting my devices, nothing?
    Though I'd prefer something with more outputs like the Xonar U7 so I'm able to plug in both speakers and headphones in at the same time.
  12. cel4145
    Best to pick up the FiiO L7. That would allow you to use the line out functionality on the E17 for your speakers. Better SQ then since you wouldn't be double amping the sound. Then you can plug your headphones into the regular jack.
  13. Happy Hacking
    Ahh this is confusing me a bit.
    So double amping is bad?
    If so, then I should pick a DAC without an in built amp if I want to power my speakers with it?
    Basically, this is what I think right now:
    1. Speakers should be connected to 'Line-Out' so it will not be double-amped
    2. Headphones to headphones jack, speakers should not go in there to avoid double amping
    3. Speakers can use RCA to RCA as well to connect to a DAC.
    What I want to know:
    1. If the above are true
    2. Best connection type for speakers to DAC, whether to connect to Line-Out using RCA to 3.5mm or use RCA to RCA(If I have a DAC with RCA output)
    3. What is coaxial for? If I connect to my computer using USB, I can ignore coaxial right, since they're basically the same thing.
    4. Any other input/output types I am supposed to know?
    Would greatly help if you could enlighten me of my questions. Really new and all these is very confusing.
  14. cel4145
    A DAC produces line level output that is meant to be amplified. So its better if that line level output goes directly to the speakers' amp rather than being amplified by the headphone amp first.

    A preamp goes in between a DAC or other audio source and an amplifier and generally has a volume control. May also have tone controls. In stereo receivers for powering home audio systems, it also has switching units so you can connect multiple devices. So what you might like is a DAC/headphone amp/preamp that has pre-outs so you can control the headphone and speaker volume with the same volume control on the unit. For example, Audioengine D1 or Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1. Some DAC/headphone amps only have line level out for connecting speakers, like the E17. Not a problem as you can control the volume through your computer.

    SPDIF and coaxial output are good if you have a built in sound card that has some kind of surround processing. That processing can be passed to the external DAC, but you still get all the sound benefits of the better DAC. USB connections completely bypass the sound card.

    3.5mm or RCA? It's all good. :)
    Happy Hacking and catom like this.
  15. Happy Hacking
    No homo but I love you so much for this. Anyway, how do you usually tell a pre-out from line-out? I see line-outs written all the time but have never seen pre-out before. Is there another term for it?
    Not sure what you meant when you said about SPDIF and coaxial output. Not planning to touch those but good to know for now. So did you mean that going through a sound card first is better?
    I thought sound cards work as a DAC?
    Edit: Seeing that you have both the Odac and FiiO E17, which of these DAC's would you rate to be better? 

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